The cookie maker of Grove City and Litchfield
Royal iced sugar cookies are Lisa Baxter's cottage food specialty. She is known as the 'cookier' by her customers around the Grove City and Litchfield area.
Baxter owns and operates Little Bear Bakery, named after her 1-year-old grandson Grayson, also known as Graybear. Farm animal cookies such as cows, pigs and lambs are very popular items at her bakery. Baxter loves adding the eyes and smiles to the cookies. "It's almost as if they come to life," she says.
A 2015 law allows Minnesotans to make and sell certain types of food from their home kitchens (or "cottage") without a license as long as they register annually and complete food safety training. They produce confections, canned jams and jellies, salsa and sauces, and more. Producers like Baxter can earn up to $18,000 annually from cottage food sales.
"University of Minnesota Extension became involved when legislators were first looking at the law to see how food safety education could be included," says Suzanne Driessen, Extension food safety educator. "Our goal is to help ensure a safe product and prevent foodborne illness."
Once the law was passed, Extension got to work developing training by talking with cottage food producers about their educational needs. The resulting workshops focus on processes like drying, baking, canning and fermenting.
Students bring in their own products to test pH and moisture content—key hazard markers. Stations set up around the classroom allow learners to choose hands-on, interactive lessons about what’s most relevant to their type of food product. Online courses can get them started without having to travel.
"Feedback indicates participants plan to make changes based on what they learned," says Driessen. "For example, they will include sub-ingredients [elements of ingredients] and allergens on their labels."
For more information, visit Extension's website for food entrepreneurs.